Turkey has a very diverse culture, which is a mixture of various elements of Turkish, Anatolian, Ottoman (which was itself a continuation of Greco-Roman and Islamic culture) and Western culture and traditions, which began with the westernisation of the Ottoman Empire and continues to this day. This intermingling came about through the meeting of the Turks and their culture with those of the peoples who were on their way when they migrated westwards from Central Asia. Turkish culture is the result of efforts to become a “modern” Western state while preserving traditional religious and historical values.
Turkish painting in the Western sense developed actively from the middle of the nineteenth century. The very first painting courses were established in 1793 at what is now Istanbul Technical University (then the Imperial Military Engineering School), mainly for technical purposes. At the end of the nineteenth century, the human figure in the Western sense became established in Turkish painting, especially with Osman Hamdi Bey. Impressionism, as one of the contemporary trends, appeared later with Halil Paşa. The young Turkish artists sent to Europe in 1926 returned inspired by contemporary currents such as Fauvism, Cubism and even Expressionism, which are still very influential in Europe. The subsequent “Group D” of artists, led by Abidin Dino, Cemal Tollu, Fikret Mualla, Fahrünnisa Zeid, Bedri Rahmi Eyüboğlu, Adnan Çoker and Burhan Doğançay, introduced some of the trends that lasted in the West for more than three decades. Other important movements in Turkish painting were the “Yeniler Grubu” (Newcomer Group) of the late 1930s, the “On’lar Grubu” (Group of Ten) of the 1940s, the “Yeni Dal Grubu” (New Branch Group) of the 1950s and the “Siyah Kalem Grubu” (Black Pencil Group) of the 1960s.
Turkish music and literature are examples of a mixture of cultural influences. The interaction between the Ottoman Empire and the Islamic world, as well as Europe, has contributed to a mixture of Turkish, Islamic and European traditions in modern Turkish music and literature. Turkish literature was heavily influenced by Persian and Arabic literature during most of the Ottoman period. The Tanzimat reforms introduced previously unknown Western genres, especially the novel and the short story. Many writers of the Tanzimat period wrote in several genres simultaneously: for example, the poet Nâmık Kemal also wrote the important novel İntibâh(Awakening) in 1876, while the journalist Şinasi famously wrote the first modern Turkish play, the one-act comedy “Şair Evlenmesi” (The Poet’s Wedding) in 1860. Most of the roots of modern Turkish literature were formed between the years 1896 and 1923. Broadly speaking, there were three main literary movements during this period: the Edebiyyât-ı Cedîde Movement (New Literature), the Fecr-i Âtî Movement (Dawn of the Future) and the Millî Edebiyyât Movement (National Literature). The first radical step of innovation in 20th century Turkish poetry was taken by Nâzım Hikmet, who introduced the style of free verse. Another revolution in Turkish poetry took place in 1941 with the Garip movement. The blending of cultural influences in Turkey is dramatised, for example, in the form of the “new symbols of the clash and intertwining of cultures” in the novels of Orhan Pamuk, winner of the 2006 Nobel Prize for Literature.
Turkey has a very diverse folk dance culture. The hora is performed in Eastern Thrace; the zeybek in the Aegean region, south of Marmara and in Central-Eastern Anatolia; the teke in the Western Mediterranean region ; Kaşık Oyunları and Karşılama in West-Central Anatolia, in the Western Black Sea region, south of Marmara and in the Eastern Mediterranean region; horon in the Central and Eastern Black Sea region; halay in Eastern Anatolia and in the Central Anatolia region; and bar and lezginka in Northeastern Anatolia.
Seljuk architecture combined the elements and features of Central Asian Turkish architecture with those of Persian, Arab, Armenian and Byzantine architecture. The transition from Seljuk to Ottoman architecture can be seen most clearly in Bursa, which was the capital of the Ottoman state between 1335 and 1413. After the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople (Istanbul) in 1453, Ottoman architecture was heavily influenced by Byzantine architecture. The Topkapı Istanbul Palace is one of the most famous examples of classical Ottoman architecture and was the main residence of the Ottoman sultans for about 400 years. Mimar Sinan (c. 1489-1588) was the most important architect of the classical period of Ottoman architecture. He was the chief architect of at least 374 buildings constructed in the 16th century in various provinces of the Ottoman Empire.
From the 18th century onwards, Turkish architecture was increasingly influenced by European styles, which is particularly evident in the buildings of the Tanzimat era in Istanbul such as the Dolmabahçe, Çırağan, Feriye, Beylerbeyi, Küçüksu, Ihlamur and Yıldız palaces, all designed by members of the Ottoman court architect family Balyan. The Ottoman seaside houses (yalı) on the Bosphorus also reflect the fusion of classical Ottoman and European architectural styles in the above-mentioned period. The first national architectural movement (Birinci Ulusal Mimarlık Akımı) at the beginning of the 20th century attempted to create a new architecture based on motifs from Seljuk and Ottoman architecture. The movement was also called Turkish Neoclassicism or National Architectural Renaissance. The most important architects of this movement were Vedat Tek (1873-1942), Mimar Kemaleddin Bey (1870-1927), Arif Hikmet Koyunoğlu (1888-1982) and Giulio Mongeri (1873-1953). The most notable buildings of this period are the Istanbul Grand Post Office (1905-1909), the Tayyare Apartments (1919-1922), the 4th. Istanbul Vakıf Han (1911-1926), the Museum of Art and Sculpture (1927-1930), the Ankara Museum of Ethnology (1925-1928), the first headquarters of Ziraat Bank in Ankara (1925-1929), the first headquarters of Türkiye İş Bankası in Ankara (1926-1929), the Bebek Mosque and the Kamer Hatun Mosque.
The most popular sport in Turkey is club football (football). Galatasaray won the UEFA Cup and the UEFA Super Cup in 2000. The Turkish national football team finished 3rd in the 2002 FIFA World Cup and the 2003 FIFA Confederations Cup, winning bronze. At UEFA Euro 2008, the team reached the semi-finals (3rd place on goal difference).
Other common sports such as basketball and volleyball are also popular. The Turkish men’s national basketball team finished second and won silver medals at the 2010 FIBA World Cup and the 2001 EuroBasket, both hosted by Turkey. They also won two gold medals (1987 and 2013), one silver medal (1971) and three bronze medals (1967, 1983 and 2009) at the Mediterranean Games. Turkish basketball club Anadolu Efes S.K. won the Korać FIBA Cup in 1995-96, finished 2nd in the Saporta FIBA Cup in 1992-93, and qualified for the Euroleague and Superleague Final Four in 2000 and 2001, where they finished 3rd respectively. Another Turkish basketball club, Beşiktaş, won the FIBA EuroChallenge in 2011-12, while Galatasaray won the Eurocup in 2015-16 and Fenerbahçe finished second in the Euroleague in 2015-16. The 2013-14 Women’s Euroleague final was played between two Turkish teams, Galatasaray and Fenerbahçe, and won by Galatasaray.
The Turkish national women’s volleyball team won the silver medal at the 2003 European Championship, the bronze medal at the 2011 European Championship and the bronze medal at the 2012 FIVB World Grand Prix. She also won one gold medal (2005), six silver medals (1987, 1991, 1997, 2001, 2009, 2013) and one bronze medal (1993) at the Mediterranean Games. Women’s volleyball clubs in Turkey, namely Fenerbahçe, Eczacıbaşı and Vakıfbank, have won numerous titles and medals at the European Championships. Fenerbahçe won the FIVB Women’s World Club Championship in 2010 and the CEV Women’s Champions League in 2012. Vakıfbank represented Europe as winners of the CEV Women’s Champions League in 2012-13 and also became world champions by winning the FIVB Women’s World Club Championship in 2013.
The traditional Turkish national sport has been yağlı güreş (oil wrestling) since Ottoman times. The annual Kırkpınar oil wrestling tournament has been held in Edirne since 1361. The international wrestling styles regulated by FILA, such as freestyle and Greco-Roman wrestling, are also very popular. Many European, World and Olympic championship titles have been won by Turkish wrestlers, both individually and in national teams.
Turkish cuisine is considered one of the most important in the world, its popularity due in large part to the cultural influences of the Ottoman Empire and in part to the significant tourism industry. It is largely the legacy of Ottoman cuisine, which can be described as a fusion and refinement of the cuisines of Central Asia, the Caucasus, the Middle East, the Mediterranean and the Balkans.
The country’s location between the East and the Mediterranean gave the Turks complete control over the main trade routes, and an ideal environment allowed plants and animals to flourish. Turkish cuisine was firmly established by the mid-400s, at the beginning of the Ottoman Empire’s six-hundred-year rule. Yoghurt salads, fish in olive oil and stuffed and packaged vegetables became staples for the Turks. The empire, which eventually stretched from Austria to North Africa, used its land and sea routes to import exotic ingredients from all over the world. By the end of the 16th century, the Ottoman court employed more than 1,400 domestic cooks and enacted laws regulating the freshness of food. Since the fall of the Empire during the First World War (1914-1918) and the establishment of the Turkish Republic in 1923, foreign foods such as French hollandaise sauce and Western fast food have found their way into the modern Turkish diet.
Hundreds of television channels, thousands of local and national radio stations, several dozen newspapers, a prolific and profitable national cinema and rapid growth in broadband internet use form a very dynamic media industry in Turkey. In 2003, a total of 257 television channels and 1,100 radio stations had licences, while others operated without licences. Of these licences, 16 television channels and 36 radio stations reached a national audience. The majority of these audiences are shared by the public broadcaster TRT and network-type channels such as Kanal D, Show TV, ATV and Star TV. Audiovisual media have a very high penetration rate due to the widespread use of satellite dishes and cable systems. The Supreme Radio and Television Council (RTÜK) is the government body responsible for overseeing broadcast media. In terms of circulation, the most popular newspapers are Posta, Hürriyet, Sözcü, Sabah and Habertürk. Turkish TV dramas are becoming increasingly popular beyond Turkey’s borders and are among the country’s most important exports, both in terms of profit and publicity. Having conquered the television market in the Middle East over the past decade, Turkish programmes were broadcast in more than a dozen countries in Central and South America in 2016. Freedom House believes that the Turkish media is not free.